Homophobic conference held in Jerusalem after two locales refuse to host

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A conference for educators that featured supporters of gay conversion therapy and other homophobic content went ahead at a hall in Jerusalem on Tuesday after two other locales declined to host the event.

The conference, put together by the Even Yisrael organization, was disavowed earlier this month by the Education Ministry, which said it would not recognize attendance at the event as part of any supplementary teacher training.

The conference, titled “Jewish Education in the Postmodern Era,” featured panels on sexual and gender identity, including those titled “Attraction or Choice?” “Identity Politics” and “The Cultural Background to LGBT Movements.”

In one widely shared photo from the event, Rabbi Zvika Dentalsky, head of the homophobic Hosen organization, which offers so-called “conversion therapy,” presented widely debunked claims that a child with three out of four of the following criteria is likely to become homosexual: “high sensitivity; a dominant or controlling mother; an absent father; sex abuse.”

A few dozen activists protested outside the conference at Heichal Shlomo on King George Street in Jerusalem, waving rainbow flags and holding signs decrying conversion therapy, which is not legal in Israel.

While the conference was originally slated to be staged in the West Bank settlement of Ariel as well as the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood of Jerusalem, both locations ultimately refused to host the event.

The conference was originally approved by the Education Ministry as being recognized supplemental training time for teachers, but the ministry later said that a “mistake” was made and revoked its approval.

Aguda-The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, said Tuesday that “those who support ‘conversion therapy’ and hate LGBT people will not be allowed in schools in the State of Israel — not on our watch. Not in secular education and not in religious education.”

In a statement, the organization decried the “forces who are filled with hatred, who do not shy away from inciting and homophobic methods and content which translate into violence in the streets.”

Data from Aguda published on Channel 12 Tuesday evening claimed to show a 30% rise in hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community since the start of the year, compared to the same period last year.

So far throughout the month of June, during which Pride Month is marked, there were 480 violent acts against members of the LGBTQ community throughout the country, according to Aguda.

Extremist, far-right rabbi Bentzi Gopstein shouts ‘it’s not pride it’s an abomination’ at the protest against the Jerusalem Pride Parade, June 1, 2023. (Jeremy Sharon/Times of Israel)

The head of the Knesset gay rights lobby, MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzano, said in a statement earlier this month that the Even Yisrael summit was “nothing short of madness.”

“This obsession of rabbis, educators, and the media to spread fear and hatred against people just because of their heart’s inclination is deadly. Homophobia is not covered under freedom of expression, and the State of Israel should fight it — not finance its distribution,” he said.

The homophobic Noam party lawmaker Avi Maoz was recently granted a return to his role overseeing educational vendors in public schools, and handing him NIS 285 million ($76 million) in funding for his Jewish National Identity Office.

A United Torah Judaism lawmaker last week called the LGBTQ movement the biggest threat to the State of Israel, “more than Islamic State, more than Hezbollah, more than Hamas.”

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